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ACP and FSMB encourage doctors to 'pause before posting' and not 'friend' patients in policy paper
Date:4/11/2013

lished patient except with extreme caution and consent by the patient.

  • E-mail or other electronic communications should only be used by physicians within an established patient-physician relationship and with patient consent.

  • Situations in which a physician is approached through electronic means for clinical advice in the absence of a patient-physician relationship should be handled with judgment and usually should be addressed with encouragement that the individual schedule an office visit or, in the case of an urgent matter, go to the nearest emergency department.

  • Establishing a professional profile so that it "appears" first during a search, instead of a physician ranking site, can provide some measure of control that the information read by patients prior to the initial encounter or thereafter is accurate.

  • Many trainees may inadvertently harm their future careers by not responsibly posting material or actively policing their online content. Educational programs stressing a pro-active approach to digital image (online reputation) are good forums to introduce these potential repercussions.

    The paper includes a chart of online activities, potential benefits and dangers, and recommended safeguards for physician behavior.

    For example, communicating with patients using e-mail offers the potential benefits of greater accessibility and immediacy of answers to non-urgent issues. The potential dangers are confidentiality concerns, replacement of face-to-face or phone interaction, and ambiguity or misinterpretation of digital interactions. The safeguards include reserving digital communications for patients that maintain face-to-face follow-up only.

    The paper was authored by ACP's Ethics, Professionalism and Human Rights Committee; ACP's Council of Associates; and FSMB's Committee on Ethics and Professionalism.


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  • Contact: Steve Majewski
    smajewski@acponline.org
    415-978-3714
    American College of Physicians
    Source:Eurekalert

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